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Sri Lanka strives to boost marine safety and revenue through navigational chart production

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Pramitha Tennakoon

In a televised discussion, Pramitha Tennakoon, State Minister of Defence, highlighted Sri Lanka’s need to produce 122 electronic navigational charts covering the Sea of Sri Lanka, revealing that only six have been created thus far.

 However, the government has taken steps to finaliSe these charts by mid -2025, he said.

 “Sri Lanka needs a deep water multi beamer and a shallow water multi beamer to produce these charts. If we have one of each, it will take us two years to produce the 122 charts. However, I think we can have two of each machine. So, we think we can finalize the charts within a year to 18 months. We are trying to finalize the charts by mid-2025,” he said.

 The country has continued to neglect the opportunity to earn significant foreign revenue by providing electronic navigational charts to ships that cross the Sea of Sri Lanka every day, the state minister of defence said.Sri Lanka in 2022 took the first steps to become a country that produces these charts, he said.

 Tennakoon said a state institution had been entrusted with producing these electronic navigational charts. However, not a lot of progress had been made, he said.

 However, he said the Sri Lanka Navy had expressed willingness to undertake the task of mapping out an essential map for safe marine navigation for ocean-going ships sailing in Sri Lankan waters. This is one of the busiest sea lanes. Annually, about 45,000 ships cross the sea of Sri Lanka, he said.

 “Most people think these ships should come to our ports for us to make an income. This is not true. When I took over as state minister of defence, officials from the Navy’s hydrography office came to meet me. They showed me how busy the sea of Sri Lanka is and that we can make hundreds of millions of dollars each year by selling electronic navigational charts,” he said.

 Many countries require merchant ships to have these maps on board for safe navigation when they have entered a specific country’s waters, wherever the ships’ destination may be, and pay for the host country’s service, he said.

 Electronic navigational charts are a marine geo-spatial product and service required to be used by international law to ensure the safe navigation of merchant ships.

 Those ships did not necessarily have to enter a country’s seaport, the state minister said.

 ” But they need to use it while sailing in a country’s waters to comply with safety protocols. An electronic navigational chart will measure the water depth, the shape of the seafloor and coastline, the location of possible obstructions and physical features of the sea at the time and help keep maritime transportation moving safely and efficiently in any given region. The map obtains necessary data by surveying with multibeam echosounders. The accuracy of the hydrography map is critically important for many applications to reduce uncertainties while sailing in coastal lines, he said.

“They indicate shoals, rocks and wrecks that could be hazards to navigation. They also collect information on water levels, tides, currents, etc. The maps will indicate the shoreline and square nautical miles of a country’s waters, which are considered critical to navigation. Now, the government has focused on mapping out an indigenous hydrography map to earn foreign currency from the service because it is our business, and we have to claim it,” Tennakoon said.

 Each vessel needs two electronic navigational charts, and as a coastal nation, Sri Lanka also has a responsibility to provide these charts, he said.

 “However, Sri Lanka still relies on paper charts, and some of these are over 100 years old. We need 122 electronic navigational charts to cover the Sea of Sri Lanka. We have only produced six of these charts. Furthermore, we still depend on charts made by the British,” he said

 Tennakoon said that producing those charts was vital for our national security, economic prosperity and sovereignty.  200 million dollars was equal to the total annual turnover of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority, he said.

 “Trust in the accuracy of our existing charts is low. All ships are insured. When they travel through areas that are not properly chartered, the insurance premium is higher. If our charts are better, the cost of transporting goods to Sri Lanka by ship will drop.,” he said.

  In January 2023, the President issued a special gazette proclamation to establish a National Hydrographic Office. The state minister said the navy has been called upon for mapping.

 “The national hydrographic bill has been presented and accepted to the cabinet. This was presented to Parliament by the Minister of Justice on 03 October. Now anyone can challenge the bill,” he said. (RK)



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United Republic Front presents ‘A united step for the country’ to the President

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Leader of the United Republic Front Member of Parliament Patali Champika Ranawaka, presented the proposal titled “A United Step for the Country” to President Ranil Wickremesinghe , at ‘Srikota’, the United National Party headquarters in Colombo this morning (24).

Speaking at the event President Ranil Wickremesinghe, highlighted the government’s concerted efforts over the past two years to stabilize the country’s economy, which had faced significant challenges. Stressing the government’s commitment to steering the economy towards recovery through strategic reforms, the President expressed his determination to continue these initiatives with the collective support of everyone.

Recalling his open invitation to all political parties to unite under a common agenda for the country, regardless of political differences, the President reiterated his willingness to embrace constructive proposals from all political parties as part of the nation-building efforts.

The President responded positively to the request made by Member of Parliament Patali Champika Ranawaka to allow other political parties to participate in the upcoming negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) next month concerning the restructuring of foreign debt.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, responding queries about the scheduling of elections, affirmed that the Presidential Election will proceed as scheduled, with the General Election anticipated to take place early next year.

 

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Opp. fears govt. discarding SC recommendations on ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Bill

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Prof. G. L. Peiris

Prof. Peiris highlights need for ex post facto judicial review

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Former External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris, MP, said that Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena’s refusal to accept that Supreme Court recommendations hadn’t been accommodated in ‘Online Safety Act No 09 of 2024’, would undermine their faith in the committee stage of a particular Bill.

The dissident SLPP MP said so when The Island sought his opinion on the SC determination on the ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Bill.

Against the backdrop of the continuing controversy over the circumstances under which the Parliament enacted the ‘Online Safety Bill’, the Opposition was seriously concerned about the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government adopting the same strategy in passing the ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Bill.

Prof. Peiris emphasised that the Speaker even ignored the Human Rights Commission advice that SC’s recommendations hadn’t been accommodated. The academic, who recently aligned himself with the SJB, said that the genuine Opposition shared his concerns.

Several parties challenged the ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Bill in the SC in terms of Article 121(1) of the Constitution. The determination of the SC as to the Constitutionality of the Bill concluded as—

(a) Clause 3, Clause 42, Clause 53, and Clause 70 of the Bill are inconsistent with Article 12(1) of the Constitution and required a special majority to be passed by Parliament.

(b) However, the SC stated that the said inconsistencies can be ceased if the said Clauses are amended as per the Determination of the Court.

(b) Clause 4 has to be suitably amended as per the Supreme Court Determination. Clause 72 (1) is unconstitutional and needs to be passed by a Special Majority and a Referendum. The unconstitutionality will cease if this Clause is amended as per the Determination of the Supreme Court.

(c) Correspondingly, Clause 72(2) must be amended in accordance with the Determination.

(d) Clause 75 (3) infringed the Article 4 (c) read with Article 3 of the Constitution and required 2/3 majority and a Referendum. The invalidity will cease 7 upon the amendments suggested in the Determination.

(f) Clause 83 (7) requires a special majority to be passed into law. It has to be suitably amended as per the Supreme Court Determination.

Further, the Supreme Court has determined that subject to the amendments that have adumbrated to the provisions of the Bill by the Supreme Court, the Bill could be enacted into law with a Simple Majority only if the amendments determined by the Supreme Court are introduced to the provisions.

Prof Peiris said that the crisis highlighted the need for ex post facto judicial review, for which there is at present no provision in Sri Lanka. The position is otherwise in countries like the USA and India where an Act of Parliament can be impugned, even after completion of the legislative process, on the ground of conflict with imperative provisions of the Constitution. Such provision existed in Sri Lanka prior to the First Republican Constitution of 1972.

The former minister said that in the draft Constitution Bill which he presented to Parliament on 3 August 2000 on behalf of the Government of President CBK, appropriate provision in this regard was included. “Unfortunately, the Constitution was burnt in the Chamber of Parliament. This gap in our law should be filled, in my view, when a comprehensive exercise in constitutional reform is undertaken by a new Administration after the conduct of national elections this year.”

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US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Verma visits Sri Lanka

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Deputy Secretary of State of the United States of America Richard Verma visited Sri Lanka from last Thursday to yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press release.

The visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State and delegation had extensive discussions with Foreign Minister Ali Sabry at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on further strengthening bilateral cooperation. The U.S. Deputy Secretary of State also paid a courtesy call on President Ranil Wickremesinghe following the discussions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, while appreciating the humanitarian and emergency assistance granted by the U.S. to overcome the economic challenges encountered by Sri Lanka, welcomed the recent US$ 553 million development assistance extended by the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation to the Colombo West International Terminal Private Limited. He also appreciated the U.S. assistance in securing the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) from the IMF.

Foreign Minister Sabry briefed Deputy Secretary of State Verma on Sri Lanka’s priorities as Chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association and the opportunities to foster collaboration in blue economy and maritime security in the region to promote freedom of navigation for all and for the facilitation of trade and commerce. He also apprised the Deputy Secretary of State of the Government’s efforts to further strengthen governance, democracy, and rule of law, as well as to combat corruption.

Deputy Secretary of State Verma while noting the encouraging progress in Sri Lanka following the economic downturn in the last two years, assured continuous U.S. assistance to the country towards economic prosperity.

The Deputy Secretary of State was accompanied by the U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung, senior officials from the White House National Security Council, U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Department of Defence. Acting Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mohammed Jauhar and senior officials of the Foreign Ministry were associated with the Foreign Minister at the meeting.

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